POW camp journals kept morale high

Name: POW camp newsletters
Date: 1942-1944
Location: Europe

To offset the boredom of life in prisoner of war camps, particularly those in the European conflict, a huge amount of effort went into physical and creative activity - apart from the many escape plans.

Concerts, plays, soccer and cricket matches, exercise classes, correspondence courses, and lessons from prisoners with skills that could be passed on, were all encouraged to keep up morale and to help pass the time.

Among the disparate groups in POW camps throughout Europe were many with a literary bent and it was no surprise when camp newspapers began to appear providing information and entertainment for all.

They ranged from hand-written sheets passed from hand to hand in the smaller camps to amazingly complex and professionally printed productions complete with illustrations.

Campo PG53, for instance, had a six-page daily newspaper written by hand and posted on notice boards at 8 o'clock every morning. The POWs would queue up to read it. The pages were slightly larger than foolscap, produced in full colour and contained a front-page editorial, camp news, articles, poems and features such as "Sitting on the Barbed Wire Fence".

Probably the smallest and least flamboyant of the publications was that produced in Stalag VIIIB. Our Mag was a hand written effort with just one copy produced each issue and handed round the 21 inmates in a plain exercise book with 36 pages.

The Editor, according to an article published in The Prisoner of War - the official journal of the Prisoners of War Department of the Red Cross and St John War Organisation in London, said it was hard work getting fellow prisoners to use their spare time for writing. "But some of them have discovered enthusiasm and quite a lot of talent," he said. As a draughtsman by profession, the Editor was able to print as quickly as he could write, making production much easier.

Readers of The Camp, produced at Stalag XXID were well supplied with news of the Allied war fronts as well as enjoying extracts from the British newspapers. How this news was received and more pointedly how it was allowed to be published is another matter.

At the other end of the scale was Prisoner's Pie, the journal of Stalag XXA. It ran a series of articles by prisoners on their pre-war jobs as well as having regular competitions and crossword puzzles, drawings, cartoons and short stories. It had a print run of 480 copies and was printed outside the camp by a local German print shop.

Stalag XXID boasted its own printing press to produce Stalag Hot Pot. According to The Prisoner of War article it had an excellent standard of layout and content including two regular features, "Spotlight on Entertainment" and "A Sportsman's Notebook".

Griffe had already produced its 70th issue by November 1943. Apart from its entertainment value it also ran articles on health maintenance within the camp including leading articles by the camp Medical Officer. It contained news from home - anything that would pass the censors, including shows, food, films and sport.

Sport was the main topic of Scoop, produced at Stalag IXC. So well regarded was this publication that its editor was allowed by the Germans to visit another camp "to report on a football match". This was a prime example of the favourable attitude towards these journals taken by camp authorities. Without their help production of such publications would have been very difficult if not impossible.

There is little doubt that camp newspapers were an important factor in keeping POWs informed and entertained and if the skills learned in their production were also used to help produce material for escapes, then the additional benefits were a bonus.

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), POW camp journals kept morale high, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 16 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/australians-wartime/pow-camp-journals-kept-morale-high
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